Cloud Expo: How will Microsoft's Azure handle older applications?

Microsoft's emerging Windows Azure cloud services provider will act as a platform not just for shiny new cloud applications but also for repurposed legacy applications, according to Ranjith Ramakrishnan, CTO of Microsoft third-party partner Cumulux.

According to Ramakrishnan, Microsoft is initially offering four data centers in the US and one in Europe for hosting cloud applications of both sorts. His company is now working on extending Azure enablement to its mPortal mobile portal.

As most attendees at the SYS-CON conference had probably heard already, Windows developers will be able to use familiar Windows .NET tools such as Visual Studio to write applications for Azure, purportedly without much if any concern over the underlying cloud plumbing.

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But developers in the crowded conference room in New York City peppered the Cumulux CTO with questions about some of the nuances of Azure, a cloud environment still in the pre-beta phase.

One of them wanted to know about support for the competing Java development language. Although Microsoft might later add more support for other programming tools, developers won't be able to write applications for Azure in Java at the outset. However, Azure applications will be able to access Java libraries through Java Archive (JAR) files, Ramakrishnan said.

A bunch of developers asked for information about how to move -- or migrate -- older 32-bit and 64-bit Windows applications to a hosted Azure cloud. "We don't do anything special with [existing] 64-bit applications," the Cumulux CTO answered. "We just publish them to Azure."

But the 32-bit Windows applications can be trickier. "As long as you can compile [a 32-bit application] under Azure, [migration] is quite transparent," contended Ramakrishnan, adding that Cumulux has already done so with about eight different 32-bit applications.

But for legacy 32-bit applications that can't be compiled under Azure, he said, developers will need to undergo the extra process of "wrappering" the APIs for existing dynamic link libraries (DLLs) under the Windows Communications Foundation (WCF) framework.

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